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Orihuela - The Moors´and Christians´Festival

Moors and Christians (Moros y Cristianos), refers to an important fiesta which is celebrated every year in many towns and cities in Spain. Several municipalities in Castilla, Andalucía, Murcia and Valencia, have for hundreds of years, celebrated the ‘liberation’ of their town from Moorish or Muslim rule with a solemn mass followed by a procession.

These festivals, which started in the 1500’s, continued to be low-key affairs and there are records which show one such event in Orihuela in 1579. However since the Civil War, these processions started to get much more elaborate and entertaining with the participants dressed up in elaborate costumes together with the re-enactment of various battles and campaigns between the Moors and the Christians, which occurred during the period known as the Reconquista (Reconquest) which ranged from the 8th to the 15th century).

Moors and Christians 2008
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Today, these festivals have developed into spectacular events which are a ‘must-see.’ They are always covered by the various regional TV stations. The main theme of the festival is the capture of the city or castle by the Moors and the subsequent recapture (Reconquista) by the Christians. The people that take part in the festival are usually enlisted in filas or comparsas - companies that represent the Christian or Moorish elements. For example the Christian groups may include representations of Navarros, Almogávares, Crusaders, Andalusians, Caballeros del Cid etc., while the Moors may have names such as Almoravids, Almohades, Bedouin, Jews, Berbers, Tauregs, Moroccans etc.

For a number of days, several hundred participants parade and battle with elaborate costumes loosely inspired by medieval fashion. Christians wear fur, metallic helmets, and armor, fire loud muskets and ride horses. In contrast, Moors wear ancient Arabic costumes, carry scimitars, and sometimes ride real camels or elephants. The soldiers belonging to the various factions will be dressed in colourful and splendid matching uniforms with weapons. The festival includes gunpowder explosions, medieval music and fireworks, and ends with the Christians winning a simulated battle around a castle. This can be an actual castle or an artificial one specially created for the occasion.

Wednesday, 16th of July 2008 at 23:30 hours: In the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (in front of the town hall). In the present of several authorities, "Armengola 2008", Christian´and Moor´Ambassador and the festival committee, the mayor of Orihuela presented to the public the Glorious Oriol from the balcony of the town hall. Afterwards big celebrations in the different quarters of the moors and christians.
Moors and Christians 2008
Moors and Christians 2008
Moors and Christians 2008
Moors and Christians 2008

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Women participate equally in the spectacle, many dressed in attractive harem-style attire. Although historically inaccurate, a custom has developed whereby many of the men in costume (and some women) smoke large cigars while parading. Otherwise, the participants are expected to, and do remain, in-theme for this truly spectacular event.

Music plays a very important, although generally unappreciated, part of the event. In the early 19th century music was first composed specially for the event. Since then there have been many new compositions which help to announce certain parts of the fiesta or the arrival of the various factions. Generally the music is divided into three categories – Marches of the Moors, Marches of the Christians and Pasodobles.

Moors & Christians in Orihuela - The entry of the christians - 19th of July 2008
 

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Moors & Christians in Orihuela - The entry of the moors - 20th of July 2008
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